The Linguists

The death of languages is a human rights issue.

Here is the website of The Linguists, a film about the collection and recording of dying languages at the Living Tongues Institute.

This blog has noted before the catastrophe of a lost language, which is a depletion of the sum of human knowledge.  Now I’m working for English PEN, which places a high value on translation and in seeking voices who express their thoughts in other languages, I appreciate all the more that the death of languages is a human rights issue.  Its linked to racism, oppression, and ethnic cleansing.

One of the last confirmed speakers of Amurdak, Charlie Mangulda
One of the last confirmed speakers of Amurdak, Charlie Mangulda

Via Seed and Kottke.

1 thought on “The Linguists”

  1. Not always, it isn’t. I think you’ve put the cart slightly before the horse here. Languages die for lots of reasons, not all of them dubious.

    What is the case, I think, is that where there is ethnic cleansing, racism and oppression, one of the symptoms of such oppression is to reduce the number of speakers of that language by killing them, while one of the tools of such oppression is to prohibiting the speaking of a language, by use of sanctions, or threat of force.

    Where members of an oppressed language community are not wiped out by killing, the language is often deliberately attacked – language is used by oppressors as a site of control – which is testament surely to the importance of a language, and to the loss that its “death” represents.

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